New & Used
Buying Guide: New & Used Cartier Watches
Cartier watches are renowned for their effortless elegance, classic designs and intriguing silhouettes. Founded in Paris in 1847, Cartier has long been one of the world’s leading purveyors of fine jewelry and high-end timepieces.
It was Cartier that popularized “shaped watches” over a hundred years ago, defined as wristwatches with non-round cases. These once avant-garde styles have now become classics in Cartier’s watch catalog.
Features and Characteristics of Cartier Watches
Cartier boasts a wide array of watch shapes, sizes and materials—both in its archives and current collection. You’ll find gold, steel and two-tone Cartier watches, in addition to quartz, manual-winding and automatic Cartier models. Cartier makes watches for men and women, ranging from simple time-only versions to high complication pieces.
What’s more, Cartier watch price points vary from relatively affordable to ultra-expensive, depending on the specific model. Yet, there are a few key features most of them share. Keep these in mind when shopping for used Cartier watches.
The classic Cartier watch dial typically includes:
- Black Roman numerals that radiate from the center
- Blue sword-shaped hands
- A secret Cartier signature embedded into either the VII or X index
- A symmetrical guilloché pattern
- Railroad-track minute markers, often near the center of the dial but sometimes on the periphery
- Swiss Made mark under 6 o’clock
Also, most Cartier cases will have:
- A blue cabochon-cut stone set into its winding crown
- A caseback engraved with details such as the Cartier logo, material used, movement type and serial number
Most Popular Cartier Watches
One of the main reasons that used Cartier watches are sought-after is that many of the brand’s designs have endured for decades—or in some instances, over a century. Here are some of the most popular pre-owned Cartier watch models you’ll find in the secondary market.
At a time when pocket watches were the norm for men, Louis Cartier developed a wristwatch in 1904 for his friend and pioneer aviator, Alberto Santos Dumont. The Santos watch not only became one of the earliest wristwatches built purposely for men, but also the first pilot watch ever made. The Santos de Cartier watch is still a part of the brand’s lineup today. Its defining characteristics include a square-shaped case, a square dial, and a square bezel with exposed screws. In true Cartier fashion, there is a myriad of versions such as steel, full gold, and two-tone steel and gold Santos watches in a variety of sizes. In addition to time-only and time-and-date editions, Cartier also makes Santos chronograph watches.
For most of its history, Cartier was dedicated to the exterior design of its watches. However, in more recent years, Cartier has shifted its focus to developing in-house made mechanical movements. In 2010, Cartier launched the Calibre de Cartier collection to showcase watches powered by in-house Cartier MC movements. The Cartier Caliber is a varied lineup, housing time and date models, chronographs, and diving watches. All the Calibre watches include generously sized round cases, thick arched lugs and prominent crown guards. Combined, this makes for a striking contemporary men’s watch.
The glamorous Cartier Panthere watch made its debut in 1983 and quickly became the must-have luxury watch of that decade, particularly for women. Although the Panthere watch shares several design traits of other Cartier watches such as a square profile, exposed screws on the bezel and a Roman numeral dial, what sets this model apart is its supple brick-like link bracelet. The watch is especially appealing in a two-tone gold and steel combination, though it is also available in full gold or full stainless steel. Cartier discontinued the Panthere watch for a short time in the early-2000s but has recently revived the model for a new generation to enjoy.
Born in 1985 but inspired by a vintage Cartier watch commissioned by the Pasha of Marrakesh in the 1930s, the Cartier Pasha was developed as a modern luxury sports watch with plenty of intriguing details. From the ornate Vendome-style lugs and winding cap cover attached to the case via a chain, to the square minute track housed within a round dial, the Pasha is one of Cartier’s boldest watch designs. It is also one of the few Cartier watches with round cases.
Some Pasha watches come equipped with a prominent metal grille over the dial; others also include a rotating diver’s bezel. Ever since Cartier announced the return of the once-discontinued Pasha watch in 2020, there has been increased interest in used Cartier Pasha watches in the pre-owned market.
Cartier Ballon Bleu
The Cartier Ballon Bleu was introduced in 2007 and has since become one of the company’s most coveted modern timepieces for men and women. The watch features a curvaceous round silhouette and takes its name from the blue stone-topped winding crown that looks like it’s floating inside the right side of the case. While the majority of Cartier Ballon Bleu watches sport metal bracelets, the option for leather straps is also available. The Ballon Bleu is one of Cartier’s most diverse watch collections, with variations ranging from understated stainless steel to precious full gold and lavish diamond-set.
Even though Cartier no longer makes them, pre-owned Cartier Roadster watches remain popular in the secondary market. These tonneau-shaped Cartier watches were first introduced in 2001 and pay tribute to sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s. Automobile influences include the oversized date magnification lens that mimics a curved windshield, while the winding crown draws design cues from the wheels of a muscle car. Early Roadster watches even included dials that look like a speedometer gauge.
Arguably the most famous Cartier watch ever made and an icon in the luxury watch space, the Cartier Tank was also designed by Louis Cartier more than a hundred years ago. Inspired by the military tanks prevalent on the battlefields during World War I, the Tank timepiece was developed in 1917 and presented to the public in 1919. While there have been countless variations of the Cartier Tank watch over the years, they all feature rectangular cases with thick vertical sidebars called "brancards" that serve as both case borders and lugs to hold the bracelet and/or strap in place. Popular pre-owned Cartier Tank models include:
- The Art Deco-styled Tank Louis Cartier
- The Tank Francaise with the chain link bracelet
- The elongated Tank Américaine
- The stocky Tank Anglaise
- The pared-down Tank Solo
- The affordable Must de Cartier Tank